Levels of enlightenment

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Levels of enlightenment

Post by Nirveda » Tue Jan 25, 2011 5:46 pm

Do Zen schools acknowledge or emphasize varying degrees of enlightenment?

In the Theravada school there is:
1. Stream-enterer (sotapanna)
2. Once-returner (sakadagami)
3. Non-returner (anagami)
4. Worthy (arhant)

Thank you!

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Re: Levels of enlightenment

Post by Astus » Tue Jan 25, 2011 8:49 pm

Well, first of all, there are the 52 levels of enlightenment (五十二位: ten faiths 十信, ten abodes 十住, ten practices 十行, ten transferences 十迴向, ten grounds 十地, ultimate enlightenment 等覺, wonderful enlightenment 妙覺). There are also other divisions, like the six kinds of buddhahood (六即佛), and other common levels used in Mahayana (five paths, ten bhumis).

Specifically Zen levels are the so called "five ranks" (五位), and the "four (positions) of host and guest" (四主賓), and there can be a few others, depending on how we take it. But there are two important things to be clear about. First, that the doctrines you find generally in Mahayana are accepted by Zen too, and in most of the cases there is no need for any "Zen teaching" on them. Second, Zen is a quite diverse school for a couple of reasons, therefore different teachers and lineages use different doctrines. What I find a common pattern that goes back to the early masters like Baizhang Huaihai is a thee-level setting that corresponds quite well to certain Sanlun and Tiantai doctrines and can be seen in this teaching by Ven. Shengyan: Three Stages of Chan Meditation.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.

1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Re: Levels of enlightenment

Post by Nirveda » Tue Jan 25, 2011 11:08 pm

52 levels! Oy vey!

Thanks very much. :-)

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Re: Levels of enlightenment

Post by Dae Bi » Sat Feb 05, 2011 12:18 am

There are two major levels of enlightenment in Zen, Initial realisation (Kensho) and complete awakening (Satori).

First there is a mountain then there is no mountain then there is.

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Re: Levels of enlightenment

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Thu Feb 10, 2011 4:53 pm

Nirveda wrote:52 levels! Oy vey!

Thanks very much. :-)
Hi Nirveda,

I really doubt you will ever hear about these 52 levels of enlightenment at a Zen center in the west. I'd venture to guess the same would be true about Japan. While what Astus said is correct, it's not really something that Zen practitioners ever really talk about (or care about).

Dae Bi's response was much closer to what I've seen discussed in Western Zen circles.

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